Zadroga Act Reauthorization Falters as Another NYPD Firefighter Dies

The Zadroga Act reauthorization has failed just days after James Costello, the former Fire Department of New York battalion chief, died of cancer at the age of 52. Costello was diagnosed with cancer as a result of his time spent working at the World Trade Center in the aftermath of the deadliest terror attack on United States soil. The former FDNY firefighter is one of many who has died in the 14 years since terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade Center.

First responders, those most likely to need the Zadroga Act, watch the World Trade Center collapse.
September 11, 2001 – The World Trade Center collapses as first responders, those most affected by the Zadroga Act, look on. [Image by Mario Tama/Getty Images]
Ironically, James Costello was laid to rest the day after legislation passed that many hoped would reauthorize the Zadroga Act, the Act that provides help to the 9/11 survivors who are now fighting cancer and other diseases due to the attacks. The legislation was passed but left out the reauthorization of the Zadroga Act.

The irony of the Zadroga Act not being reauthorized was not lost on the FDNY Commissioner, Daniel Nigro. Speaking to the New York Daily News, Nigro said, “The effect it [World Trade Center illnesses] has had on members of this department … and on our families is devastating.” James Costello and his family could have benefitted from the Zadroga Act. The same holds true for the 110 firefighters who have died from World Trade Center diseases.

Nigro spoke to reporters at the FDNY headquarters about the Zadroga Act reauthorization in front of a plaque that holds the names of all 110 firefighters who have passed due to World Trade Center diseases. Nigro urged for a quick reauthorization of the Zadroga Act and stated that the wall currently holding the plaque of those who have died will likely not be large enough to hold the eventual list of names. “At the rate we’re adding names to this wall, we’ll run out of space,” he said. There are currently over 1,000 firefighters who are actively fighting World Trade Center diseases.

The plague memorializing first responders who have died from World Trade Center diseases. Many of whom benefited from the Zadroga Act.
September 8, 2015 – The names of first responders who have died due to World Trade Center diseases are placed on a plague at the FDNY headquarters. The Zadroga Act provides medical care and financial support to first responders and survivors of the 9/11 attack. [Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]
Many backers of the Zadroga Act are accusing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of blocking a permanent funding of the Act which is set to run out of funds early in 2016. McConnell dismissed the accusations and told New York Daily News that the legislation had not been finalized on Tuesday. However, the legislation was eventually finalized, leaving out the funding for the Zadroga Act.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is hoping to have the Zadroga Act reauthorized before congress leaves Washington D.C. for the holidays. Ryan did not say how the Zadroga Act would be passed or whether it would be permanently funded or another short-term patch to a long-term problem. Politicians on both sides of the aisle agree that the Zadroga Act needs to be reauthorized but it seems no one can agree on how that should happen.

The Zadroga Act was signed into law by President Obama in early 2011. Named after James Zadroga, who died of respiratory disease attributed to his service on 9/11, the Zadroga Act established the World Trade Center Health Program. The WTC Health Program is meant to monitor and provide services to the first responders and survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attacks no matter where they currently live within the United States. The Zadroga Act also reopened the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund that had originally closed in 2003. Thanks to the Zadroga Act those who were not diagnosed with World Trade Center diseases until after 2003 receive compensation for their loss of work and families receive compensation for those who die from these same diseases.

Zadroga Act namesake James Zadroga's body carried out of the church by fellow NYPD officers.
January 10, 2006 – James Zadroga’s body is carried out of the church by fellow NYPD officers. The Zadroga Act was named after Zadroga who was the first person to die of a World Trade Center disease. [Image by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]
Meanwhile, as the Zadroga Act flounders in Washington, good men and women like James Costello and other first responders and their families struggle with covering the cost of their selfless acts on 9/11. Without these honorable men and women who ran towards devastation while everyone else ran away the number of people who lost their lives that horrible day would have been much higher. Reauthorizing the Zadroga Act is the right thing to do as thanks to the first responders.

[Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]

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